lørdag 25. oktober 2008

Dawkins getting rational?

Whether it is age or argument, Richard Dawkins at least seems to have changed tactics recently. While earlier denying any intellectual merit at all in holding that a God may exist, he started his latest debate with John Lennox by saying that A serious case could be made for a deistic God.

The report is much of a hoot, some of which of course may be due to it not excactly being written by a disciple of Dawkins. After the previous debate with Lennox, it seems rather revealing that he this time chose to leave his standard arena of distorting Aquinas and arguments for God.

Maybe he has realised that he has been found out? His bluff has been called so many times that it seems appropriate with a new approach.

So then, how does Dawkins now proceed to debate a fellow scientist on the existence of God? By focusing on science? On theistic arguments?

No, by historical arguments against the divinity of Jesus.
Instead, Dawkins was able to move the debate onto a specific attack on Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, which is a very different argument and obscured the central point of contention – the claim that science had buried God. The fact that Dawkins now appears to be so reluctant publicly to defend his own position on his own territory of scientific rationalism – and indeed, even to have shifted his ground – is a tribute above all to the man he was debating once again on Tuesday evening.
While this may have been a surprise for Lennox, who neither is a Historian, he was at least able to make Dawkins see some historical light.
In the debate, under pressure from Lennox Dawkins was actually forced to retract his previous claim that Jesus had probably ‘never existed’.
That, however, didn't stop Dawkins from committing other errors, revealing his distorted view of the history of science.
And in a revealing aside, when Lennox remarked that the Natural History Museum in which they were debating – in front of dinosaur skeletons -- had been founded for the glory of God, Dawkins scoffed that of course this was absolutely untrue.

But it was true. Construction of the museum was instigated between 1855 and 1860 by the Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir Henry Acland. According to Keith Thomson of the Sigma XI Scientific Research Society, the funds for the project came from the surplus in the University Press’s Bible account as this was deemed only appropriate for a building dedicated to science as a glorification of God’s works.
While Dawkins may not walk the way of Antony Flew yet, he seems at least to have become wise enough to drop or hesitate about several of his arguments from The God delusion.

fredag 24. oktober 2008

Since we'll go there

As there may be a stray loner who do find a pure music blog a better idea than mixing it with religion, politics and comics, here is one I recently discovered.

And a good one too.

onsdag 22. oktober 2008

Since we've been there

A not so raving review.

Well deserved, though. So take care not to hurt your shoulder.

One important issue is the relation between religion and war. Here Maher is even more off base than usual:
But what happens when we hold Maher to his own standard? For instance, what about his claims that religion is the only cause of man’s woes and if it were gone, all would be well. Given his constant request that one base his beliefs on evidence, and scientific study, Maher frequently drops the ball on his own end. For example, take his belief that religion is the cause of war. He fails to engage in any scientific investigation on how it is that religion is to blame for all the troubles in the world. He doesn’t, as Plato said, “carve nature at its joints” but he “hacks off parts like a clumsy butcher.” One rightly wonders, especially since Maher offered no sources, from where did he draw his scientific data from? Or, is he meaning to give us a rant based on loosely cobbled facts mashed together from some of his own personal experiences, and concluding with a fallacious hasty generalization that “religion poisons everything?”
The truth seems as so often more to be that anti-religion poisons everything.

Not the least by dropping any pretense of doing science.
One thing you do in an objective, scientific study of something is take into account all the relevant empirical information. Those who exclude empirical data that bears on their thesis are not engaged in honest scientific inquiry. They’re engaging in a witch hunt! Maher doesn’t mention sociological, economic, political, historical, ideological ethical, or geographical factors, all of which play a huge part in wars. He doesn’t reference the influential work of Robert Pape, for example, who concluded in the book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism: “There is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions.” After studying 315 suicide attacks from 1981-2004, Pape, a University of Chicago political science professor, concludes that suicide bombers' actions stem from logical military strategies, not their religion. Pape claims that the fundamental motive is political. The desire to force the withdrawal of foreign forces occupying land believed to belong to an oppressed people who have seriously limited resources at their disposal (McGrath, Dawkins Delusion, 80), is demonstrated by Pape through serious scientific study.
Unfotunately for Maher, science demands a bigger brain than bite.
The simple fact of the matter is, and it is one that Maher is too lazy to take note of or account for, the causes of war are just too complex a thing; we must, as atheist David Livingstone Smith puts it, “resist the temptation to box the causes of war in tidy categories hedged about with arbitrary distinctions.” Smith, our Darwinian atheist philosopher, offers his views on the cause of war in his book. He claims that, “War can be approached from many angles. We can consider it from the standpoint of various disciplines. All of these are important, but there is one dimension that underpins them all: the bedrock of human nature.” (p. xiii)

Other atheists that are more level headed than Maher on this matter are those like Michael Shermer. Shermer claims that he “is not convinced by the New Atheists argument that without religion there would be, "no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as 'Christ-killers,' no Northern Ireland 'troubles'…. In my opinion, many of these events—and others often attributed solely to religion by atheists—were less religiously motivated than politically driven, or at the very least involved religion in the service of political hegemony.”
Pseudoscience is a big problem today, and something that should be countered by all parties. Not the least those claiming consistent support from science.

The New Atheists, however, seem to eager to remove the carpet beneath their feet to notice.
Worries about the hack scholarship of some like Maher and the New Atheist led University of Hawaii political scientist R.J. Rummell to introduce the term “democide” to cover all forms of politically motivated government-sponsored killing apart from warfare. Maher seems to think that all genocides are religiously motivated. But estimates of the death toll from 20th century democide ranges up toward the 170 million mark according to Rummell’s book Death By Government. How can Maher's theory explain all the relevant data. As a worshiper of "Science," Maher should know that hypothesis that cannot account for a lot of the data should be dropped. But Maher is one of the faithful. He refuses to let facts and evidence get in the way of his jihad.

mandag 20. oktober 2008

While we're at it

It is rare to discover so raving reviews as the following. So raving in fact, that I am not sure if even I would be able to write it.

Not the least if one takes the Billboard context in consideration (even if it really is from All Music Guide).

"Known for their on-stage energy and full-force musical prowess, Live at the Royal Albert Hall is the farthest from disappointment a live album can get.

Each member of ELP exhibits his individual talents on this astonishing audio spectacle that doesn't let up at any point. Spearheading the 11 songs on the album that runs almost 70 minutes is keyboardist Keith Emerson, whose earsplitting synthesizer rumbles and squeals with devastating vigor.

His playing is loose and freewheeling, characterizing his devil-may-care style, and bursting with emotion. Equally forceful is Carl Palmer behind the drums, especially on "Lucky Man" and "Karn Evil No. 9" where he showcases both his subtle mechanics and his frantic arm swirling.

On guitar, Greg Lake fills in with some stellar bass work, whose impact can be felt even above the grandiose of the other two. The songs that work best live from ELP are all included, amassing all the ardor and extravagance surrounding this threesome.

In front of their home audience in England, they really steal the show with a nine-minute outpouring of "Tarkus," as the combination of all their talents are fused together in instrumental wonderment. Even better is the grand finale, a 14-minute medley of "Fanfare for the Common Man," "America," and "Rondo."

A truly volcanic display of keyboard driving from Keith Emerson sends this intense montage into a frenzy, ending the album on a fierce high. Live at the Royal Albert Hall has the grandfathers of progressive rock sounding like sonically intoxicated teenagers."

Some of us get intoxicated just from reading the review.

søndag 19. oktober 2008


Rather hectic these days, seems like it will continue for some time.

In the meantime a snip from Japanese TV may hopefully comfort a few.